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Should voices be added to some silent movies?


MovieMadness
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Actually, I think it's a viable idea. And no doubt, some owners of those films probably have considered it as a way to re-market them to contemporary audiences.

 

But one of the problems is that often the actors are ad-libbing and probably not uttering full sentences...so to try and figure out what they are saying on screen and add appropriate, synchronized dialogue might be a daunting task. Difficult, but not impossible.

 

Now if you don't care how sloppy the looping of sound might be, then it could be done in spoof sort of way, like something we might find on Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, that may offend the purists.

 

It's like taking the Mona Lisa and giving her a new coat of paint.

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Never! Not Ever! And it is a Stupid notion. Silent films are a completely different medium to sounds films. They don't need dialogue. Many a Silent such as *NOAH'S ARK* was tragically ruined by unnecessary, ill-advised talking sequences being added after the fact. These were known as Goat-Gland films. They compromise the artistic integrity of the production, and add nothing positive to them. The swift pace of *THE LOVE TRAP* is slowed to a crawl, when it suddenly morphs into a very poor talkie a little over mid-way through the picture.

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> {quote:title=MyFavoriteFilms wrote:}{quote}

> Actually, I think it's a viable idea. And no doubt, some owners of those films probably have considered it as a way to re-market them to contemporary audiences.

 

You've got to be kidding. It's like saying _Great Expectations_ needs to be rewritten in modern language, because 19th century English is boring or hard to understand.

>

> But one of the problems is that often the actors are ad-libbing and probably not uttering full sentences...so to try and figure out what they are saying on screen and add appropriate, synchronized dialogue might be a daunting task. Difficult, but not impossible.

 

Part of the problem that you describe is when the dialog title cards are inserted.

Many times the editor would try to insert the card as the actor began to speak.

Examples: THE WEDDING MARCH, or THE WIND. Most times the actors are speaking lines of dialogue that would either match or be a close approximation to what would follow on a title card. Since these were silent films there was no dialogue script written for the actors to memorize.

 

>

> Now if you don't care how sloppy the looping of sound might be, then it could be done in spoof sort of way, like something we might find on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

 

Not unlike what Jay Ward did with FRACTURED FLICKERS in the 1960s, a show I still love.

The difference is that Ward was spoofing silent films (not unlike the MGM GOOFY MOVIES shorts of the early 1930s)

 

>However, that may offend the purists. It's like taking the Mona Lisa and giving her a new coat of paint.

 

Very true. Many years ago the vary same idea was tried with the Laurel & Hardy silent DOUBLE WHOOPEE (1929). The producers used voice artists to mimic the voices of all the actors (including Jean Harlow) and it is horrible. The rhythm of the silent film was ruined by trying to change the pace of it to fit dialog.

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Have you read any scripts for silent films?

 

I have a few here at home. There's a reason I said they ad-lib...

 

You're right about the title cards. Also, some of the prints have jump cuts due to missing frames/footage...sometimes while characters are talking.

 

But like I said, it's not an impossible task. And I think it's viable. Just like those colorized films. There is a market for it. When I received a disc from Netflix for a Shirley Temple movie, it had both the black and white original and the colorized version. For someone who cries foul at it being colorized, they can skip it and watch it as it was originally shown to audiences. The same could apply to silents with new dialogue and other audio added.

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I had a feeling someone was going to suggest this last year after seeing that documentary about using lip reading software to find out what Hitler was speaking in non-vocal films.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1534830/New-technology-catches-Hitler-off-guard.html

 

Answer is no! I will accept new musical scores and restored prints (restoring NOT colorizing) but thats it. Silent movies covers a very small time frame and is part of our film making history. Adding voices is vandalism to art.

 

Doing this, one might as well repaint the Mona Lisa, might as well bring it *up to date!* :(

 

Mona_Lisa.jpg

 

Edited by: hamradio on Feb 4, 2011 9:01 PM

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The idea of adding dialog to a silent film is as silly as substituting current actors voices for those that were originally recorded for a classic movie like THE PUBLIC ENEMY, for example.

 

One could argue that sound technology has improved and it would make the film "more accessable to younger audiences" to hear Johnny Depp as Tom Powers' voice instead of James Cagney.

 

Why should we suffer through all of the technical inferiorities of a 1931 film when we can improve it with new voices, new music, and maybe even spice it up with some CGI to make it look more spectacular?

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> The idea of adding dialog to a silent film is as silly as substituting current actors voices for those that were originally recorded for a classic movie like THE PUBLIC ENEMY, for example.

>

I think you're exaggerating...and it's not an apt analogy.

 

If the audio tracks in PUBLIC ENEMY were sadly missing, then we might be having this same conversation about redubbing it with new actors' voices.

 

It is not about taking away something (such as Cagney's voice) it is about adding something that is not there that modern audiences may want (such as color or sound). Now of course purists will not agree but that does not mean that manufacturers of DVDs, especially those in the public domain, won't try to enhance old films so they can sell in stores to today's consumers.

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There seems to be an ongoing concern on these boards about "bringing younger audiences to classic film". Various ideas have been suggested from time to time.

While I too, don't want all those old movies I love to disappear or be forgotten, I think the idea of "modernizing" or somehow tarting up old films to seem more like new ones is very misguided.

 

As with any art form, the old always gives way to the new in terms of mass popularity and attention. That doesn't mean the old is totally abandoned or forgotten. People still listen to classical music, many still learn how to play this kind of music. It's not going to garner the attention Lady Ga-Ga's stuff gets, but so what? Nobody says. "Hey, let's figure out a way to make Schubert sound more like Lady Ga-Ga, that way more young people will listen to Schubert".

 

The majority of people -whatever age they may be- don't read Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Austin, or Hardy. Or Melville or Faulkner. But quite a few still do. Should we, in an attempt to draw more readers to these writers from an earlier time, alter the language, maybe add a micro-chip with sound effects to the pages to liven them up?

 

Both those suggestions, I suspect, would be considered ridiculous. So why do some people want to do this with films? In any case, silent films are what they are. If you like them you like them because of that - it's the absence of sound that is, in part, what makes them fascinating. Also, the cinematography, the way people looked, the dream-like atmosphere many silents have ...those magical qualities would be lost if they had dialogue added to them.

Besides, even if voices were added to silent films (what a horrible thought), it would not bring younger audiences to those kinds of movies. They still wouldn't bother with them. The minority of movie fans, whatever their age may be, love silent movies for what they are, and that would include any young people too.

 

I've never understood this urge to mess with art from the past. Leave it alone, and worry about making better current art (whether it's movies, music, or literature.)

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> {quote:title=MyFavoriteFilms wrote:}{quote}

> > The idea of adding dialog to a silent film is as silly as substituting current actors voices for those that were originally recorded for a classic movie like THE PUBLIC ENEMY, for example.

> >

> I think you're exaggerating...and it's not an apt analogy.

>

> If the audio tracks in PUBLIC ENEMY were sadly missing, then we might be having this same conversation about redubbing it with new actors' voices.

>

> It is not about taking away something (such as Cagney's voice) it is about adding something that is not there that modern audiences may want (such as color or sound). Now of course purists will not agree but that does not mean that manufacturers of DVDs, especially those in the public domain, won't try to enhance old films so they can sell in stores to today's consumers.

 

I would respectfully disagree. It indeed is all about taking away something. In colorization one is taking away the artistry of black and white photography and adding color where it was not intended to be. The same with adding dialog to a film that never had sound, nor would it be the original actor's voice. Who makes the decision on what Wallace Reid's voice will now sound like, or Valentino's? Because no doubt someone will try to market these films along the lines of, "hear Valentino talk!". Why must we tamper with art to suit our modern tastes? Why can't we just appreciate it for what it is and leave it at that?

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